pierslinney-Piers Linney is a self made entrepreneur and former City investment banker. He is currently Joint-Chief Executive Officer at Outsourcery, a leading communications and hosted IT company. The opinions expressed are his own.-

"Cloud computing" can sound like a very amorphous concept, perhaps even conjuring up images of important business data floating around in the skies above us. It often raises questions about control and security. But the reality is a lot more down to earth and it is quite simply the future of computing and the way in which businesses will consume pooled resources of software and hardware.

It is not a technology that is on the way or in "beta testing". Cloud computing uses tried and tested software that is just delivered in a new way. It is already empowering thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK while saving them money, increasing productivity and allowing them to get on with running their business instead of their IT.

The arrival of cloud computing - where software and hardware is pooled centrally and made available over the internet - has parallels with the early use of electrical power. When industry first started using electricity, each business had to build a generating plant.

This model was replaced with large centralised power stations with electricity distributed using the National Grid network - providing customers with "on-demand" power without any investment or maintenance costs and billing based on only what was used.